Stockport County

Memory Match – 30-04-52

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

** This was written before the Coronavirus outbreak. But l see no reason why my opinions should change. It goes without saying that l wish everyone associated with the club the very best of health, but I remain convinced that Wrexham AFC will only prosper by being inclusive for ALL supporters. ** 

***

30/04/52

Wrexham v Stockport County

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Connor, Speed, Fisher, McCallum, Spruce, Tapscott, Wynn, Hewitt, Bannan, Tilston, Tunnicliffe 

Stockport County: Ward, Staniforth, Kavanagh, Wilmott, Paterson, Cocker, Haddington, Connor, Black, Weigh

Attendance: 4,716

It is always important for any team to get off to a good start to the season, but the 1951/52 campaign began with six consecutive defeats for Peter Jackson’s men. An opening day defeat at Chester (2-1), was not a good omen for things to come, and our confidence obviously took a battering. Defeats against Barrow (3-1), Chesterfield (0-3), Barrow (2-4), Bradford Park Avenue (5-0) and Workington (2-0) left us rock bottom of the table with little hope for the months ahead.

We didn’t manage to climb the league ladder until late December, when we whacked Southport 3-0 at the Racecourse. Although we managed to stay clear of bottom spot for the remainder of the season, it should be noted that we didn’t manage to climb above 15th, in a terribly inconsistent run of form.

Players and fans alike were probably relieved to be staging the final game of a rotten term. Expectation was low as the visitors had been pushing for promotion to Division 2, and were only denied by Lincoln City, who eventually finished ten points clear of the chasing pack. The form of the Hatters had been so impressive that Division 1 strugglers Huddersfield Town had poached their manager, Scotsman Andy Beattie, in a failed bid to prevent relegation. The joint managerial team of Alex Herd and Billy Newton arrived at the Racecourse hoping to secure a permanent position with the club.

The form book went out of the window this afternoon, as Wrexham were on top for the fist 20 minutes. A neutral would have thought it was the home side who had been challenging at the summit throughout the season.

It really was a sparkling display by the Robins and only a lack of incisive finishing kept the game goalless. Hatters keeper Denis Ward made a fine save after Tommy Bannan looked certain to score, but this was one of the only times that Ward would be called into action during the opening period. We were on top, but the pressure we were piling on to a shambolic visiting defence, did not result in any shots on goal.

At the other end, Bob Connor was largely a spectator. He was only called into action on one occasion during the first half, when he was forced to scramble away an effort by Stockport’s Jack Connor. Meanwhile, Ward was lucky not to concede when both Ron Wynn and Tommy Tilston threatened to break the deadlock.

It seemed that the second half would follow a similar pattern to the first, as Ron Hewitt struck the crossbar shortly after the restart. His effort rebounded , and signalled the start of more sustained Wrexham pressure, which was dealt with by dogged County defenders Fred Kenny and Gordon Wilmott.

Despite being in the driving seat, the Wrexham defence still had to stay alert. This was underlined when full back Les Speed made a mistake that led to an opportunity for visiting attacker Ray Weigh. His shot cannoned back off Connor’s legs. Stockport did come back in to the game from this stage onwards, but neither side really threatened to steal both points.

County finished the season in third spot, while Wrexham’s final position depends on which source you believe. According to Wrexham: A Complete Record 1872 – 1992 we achieved a fourteenth place finish at the start of the book, but the season by season data near the end of the book states that we limped to a disappointing  eighteenth. Wikipedia also shows us in eighteenth, whilst the English National Football Archive suggests we ended up seventeenth.

***

Just two days after the end of the season, Peter Jackson released his retained list. The squad was cut substantially from 35 professionals, to just 20 for the following season. Willie Jessop and Cyril Lawrence could feel particularly disappointed as according to the North Wales Guardian, both were “ninety-minute triers” and popular amongst fans. Eyebrows were also raised by those not included on the list:

“In contrast, one player who has said quite frankly more than once, that he wants a transfer is retained! That player is Archie Ferguson – a very good goalkeeper – but is it wise to keep a player who is not happy with his club? Is it fair to the player or the club?”

***

It is also interesting to note that Tommy Griffiths, who had been trainer-coach for two seasons relinquished his position. A former centre-half and captain of Wales, he had begun his playing career at Wrexham. He had taken up a role as a director at the Cae Ras three years previously, but resigned to become trainer-coach.

***

We failed to find any glory in the cup competitions either. A lacklustre season was summed up by a second round defeat in the FA Cup, at the hands of Leyton Orient. We did push the East Londoners all the way though. A first round triumph over Halifax Town (3-0), set up a contest with the O’s that finished 1-1 at the Racecourse. The Third Division (South) side hosted the replay, which they eventually won 3-2, after extra time. Brisbane Road has never been a happy hunting ground…

A thumping 7-2 victory over Colwyn Bay in the fifth round of the Welsh Cup promised much. Chester held us to a goalless draw at the sixth round stage, so it was off to Sealand Road to turn them over 0-2 on their own patch. The semi-final saw a clash with Merthyr Tydfil, in a game played in Cardiff. Unfortunately, we lost the match 2-0.

***

 

I was saddened to learn of the passing of former player Cyril Lawrence at the age of 99, via the Official Blackpool FC Website. 

Lawrence was on Blackpool’s books, but never made a first team start for the club before leaving for Rochdale. After 4 seasons and 44 appearances for the Dale he was transferred to the Town where he racked up 50 games in a 2 year spell.

I have just looked up Cyril’s date of birth and in a weird coincidence it is tomorrow – 12/06/1920.

My thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.

Memory Match – 19-03-49

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

** This was written before the Coronavirus outbreak. But l see no reason why my opinions should change. It goes without saying that l wish everyone associated with the club the very best of health, but I remain convinced that Wrexham AFC will only prosper by being inclusive for ALL supporters. ** 

***

19/03/49

Wrexham v Carlisle United

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-0

 Wrexham: Ferguson, Tunney, Jackson, Speed, Spruce, Wilson, Grainger, Beynon, Boothway, Sharp, Tunnicliffe

Goalscorer: Boothway (2), Beynon (2)

 Carlisle United: MacLaren, Simpson, Coupe, Horton, Seed, Twentyman, Turner, Lindsay, Yates, Barkas, Walshaw

Attendance: 7,340

The 1948/49 season saw plenty of changes as one chapter closed, and another began.

Everything seemed to be going to plan, with the Town competing near the top of the Third Division North table. Following a fourth successive victory, against Accrington Stanley (1-0) we found ourselves in sixth position. With everything seemingly going well, it came as a massive shock when Tom Williams was relieved of his duties, even though his contract was due to run until 1950. Two of the club’s directors also retired in protest at the dismissal.

One of these figures, Alderman William Dodman said: “Tom Williams was highly respected everywhere. He always said that his dismissal by Wrexham was an injustice, and I agree with him. If the club had been left in his hands, I think Wrexham would have been a Second Division side long ago. He managed the club during the war, without pay and he got a team together that could, and did hold its own against the best in the country. His heart was always with Wrexham FC, and he once said that he would go back for nothing.”

A committee took over team selection while a new manager was found. This committee had been in charge of the three games prior to this one, and we were still searching for our first victory. We had slid down to ninth position and it was clear that a new manager had to be appointed as soon as possible.

We had lost the reverse fixture at Brunton Park by the odd goal in five. Since that game in October, both clubs had a change of management. Ivor Broadis had been in charge of United, but had since been replaced by Bill Shankly, a man who would become legendary in his own right. This was to be Shankly’s third game in the dug-out, and prior to this game he was undefeated in club management, with a victory against Bradford City (1-2) coming before a goalless draw against Halifax Town.

They would not have everything their own way this afternoon though, as the home side dominated proceedings. Wrexham scored all of their goals in the second half of the contest, but also played some impressive football during the opening period. As ‘Wanderer’ recounts in the Wrexham Leader: “There were periods of delightful movement; there were periods of bad luck in front of goal, and the inevitable periods of erratic shooting. But for the rest it was ninety percent Wrexham’s half”.

With the game goalless at half-time, fans worried that the lads would fall away completely as they had done against Stockport County (1-0) just seven days previously. Any nerves were soon settled when Jack Boothway netted three minutes after the restart. According to Wanderer the goal was a tribute to “Beynon’s fine initiative and individualism” – the Welsh inside forward powered through the visiting defence and his resulting drive beat Jimmy MacLaren. The shot stopper was saved by the crossbar, but Boothway was on hand to nod home the opening goal.

Wrexham were now in the driving seat, much as they had been throughout, but now they had made the all-important breakthrough. After proving that they could be clinical in front of goal, the home side asserted their dominance. On 57 minutes, Billy Tunnicliffe managed to send over an inviting cross which unfortunately eluded Boothway. Thankfully, Eddie Beynon was on hand to send a left-footed drive through a crowd of players that found its way passed an un-sighted MacLaren.

The game was now effectively over as a contest and it came as no surprise when Boothway planted home a header on 73 minutes after a pinpoint cross by Tunnicliffe. Soon after, Beynon latched on to a loose ball and raced forward before dispatching a right-foot drive past the beleaguered figure of MacLaren.

***

 Despite this pleasing victory, we were still without a manager who could provide stability and guidance for the future. We played another couple of games under the committee, in which we continued to show a lack of consistency. A 2-0 defeat at Gateshead was followed by a single-goal victory over Hartlepools United.

Thankfully, prior to our next game against Darlington at Feethams, we appointed Les McDowall as our new manager. The Manchester City wing-half became Wrexham’s first player-manager. It was an inauspicious start to his managerial career, as Wrexham only recorded two victories in the last seven games of the season.

***

It wasn’t a memorable season in the cup competitions. Oldham Athletic dumped us out of the FA Cup at the first round stage. They managed to beat us 0-3 at the Racecourse in front of 15,228 supporters.

It was a similar story in the Welsh Cup, but not before we hammered Chester 0-6 at Sealand Road. Those dreaming of further Welsh Cup glory would be disappointed in the sixth round when Rhyl beat us 1-0 at Belle Vue.

Memory Match – 30-01-37

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

30/01/37

Wrexham v Oldham Athletic

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 1-1

 Wrexham: McMahon, Evans, Hamilton, Mitchell, Lewis, Snow, Barrow, White, Lapham, Lawrence, Burgon

Goalscorer: White

 Oldham Athletic: Caunce, Hilton, Price, Williamson, Milligan, Gray, Jones, McCormick, Davis, Robbins, Downes

Goalscorer: Gray

Attendance: 2,511

Season 1936/37 got off to an awful start, with a 4-1 drubbing at Chester. Under the guidance of manager Ernie Blackburn, Wrexham soon forgot this calamitous defeat and rose to a mid-table position as we entered the New Year. However, our 2-0 reverse against Stockport County at Edgeley Park on January 2nd proved to be Blackburn’s final game in charge.

Hull City tempted Blackburn away from the Racecourse and a committee was responsible for selecting our starting 11 for the next three games. This included an FA Cup third round clash with Manchester City at the Cae Ras which was witnessed by 20,600 spectators. The Division One side won the match 1-3, but Wrexham pushed them all the way and could be proud of their performance.

Ahead of our home encounter against Oldham Athletic at the end of January, the club appointed Captain James Logan as their fourth manager. We had won our previous two League games under the leadership of the selection committee, so hopes were high that we could continue this form against fifth placed Athletic.

Less than 2,500 supporters braved the wintry weather to spend a chilly afternoon watching their heroes try to play football, on a pitch that more closely resembled a skating rink, with a light dusting of snow. Subsequently, conditions threatened to spoil the game, but Wrexham adapted themselves and pursued a policy of passing that disorientated the scrappy and disjointed Latics.

The home team were on top in the early stages. According to the scribe in the North Wales Guardian: “[Archie] Burgon was like a terrier on the touchline, worrying the defence whenever the ball came anywhere near him, by his eagerness in seizing on the slightest chance”.

Oldham’s tactics seemed quite cynical, and when Burgon was brought down in the box by Billy Hilton, the crowd clambered for a penalty. However, the referee waved away these claims to the satisfaction of our friend from the North Wales Guardian, who suggests that the Nottingham-born winger simply slipped.

Alfie White got on the scoresheet after 35 minutes, following a free-kick that was given for another assault on Burgon. George Snow delivered a delightful ball from the resulting set-piece, that White headed past Lewis Caunce in the Athletic goal. Logan’s new charges then spent the final 10 minutes of the first half, bombarding the visitors’ goal, Matt Lawrence in particular had two shots in quick succession and was unfortunate to see them saved by Caunce.

The second half failed to produce as much goalmouth action, as the first 45 minutes had. The heavy cloud led to poor light, “which seemed to blur the players’ figures in to mere silhouettes, and make it difficult to distinguish individuals”. Pat McMahon was pressed in to action more often as the game progressed, but there seemed little sting to the visitors’ raids.

The Latics eventually capitalised on a mistake by McMahon late in the game. The Glasgow-born goalkeeper made a fatal mistake by punching away a threatening ball, when it seemed much easier to have gathered the ball safely in his arms. The feeble punch was insufficient to clear the danger, and landed at the feet of Matt Gray who returned a low, rasping drive past McMahon’s despairing dive.

***

 In the Leader, ‘XYZ’ highlights a number of elderly spectators who had attended the game on such a brutally cold day:

“One old player, who gained a Welsh cap fifty-nine years ago was present! Another of the old brigade, who was at Newton Heath in the eighties’, stood in the enclosure and a third sporting veteran who had seen seventy-three, or four winters – Mr T.H. Jones (‘The Artist’) – occupied his ‘box’ seat in the paddock, and smiled at the cold.”

***

I cannot move on without mentioning the other headlines that I discovered while looking through local newspapers from January/February 1937. Several articles tell of Wrexham footballers being embroiled in a licensing prosecution. It turned out that four prominent members of our playing staff – George Snow, Jack Lewis, Alfie White and Ambrose Brown – were caught consuming alcohol after permitted hours at the Horseshoe Inn, Bank Street on the evening of January 16th 1937. This was the same day that we had pushed Manchester City all the way in the third round of the FA Cup.

All the defendants pleaded not-guilty, but after a lengthy retirement the Chairman said that the bench had decided to convict in the cases of all four players. They were each fined 10s 6d for daring to enjoy a post-match pint after 22:00 following a gutsy Cup display. Heaven forbid.

Memory Match – 25-08-28

It has been a while since I last wrote a Memory Match column. I spent 2015-2018 writing these articles for the Wrexham AFC matchday programme when we were proud to be a community club.

Unfortunately, the club’s treatment of disabled supporters is nothing short of a disgrace, while the treatment of the proactive Disabled Supporters Association leaves a lot to be desired. I am therefore withdrawing my support of the club until ALL disabled supporters are given adequate and inclusive facilities from which to enjoy the football served up at the Racecourse.

Instead I will go to watch 90 minutes of action, wherever I feel I am welcomed. It goes without saying that I will always have one ear on the Wrexham result as it is not the actual club that I have fallen out with. It is merely the way the club is being run that I have an issue with. I will continue to attend matches when it is my turn on the platform rota and away matches, but I am not wasting any more time at the bottom of the stand with an abysmal view of the action while exposed to the elements. It is a disgrace that disabled supporters are being treated in such a way at the start of the 21st century.

I still want to continue with these Memory Match articles as they proved popular. I also enjoy writing them and remembering a time when it was enjoyable to visit the Racecourse and watch a decent standard of football.

25/08/28

Wrexham v Chesterfield

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 4-3

 Wrexham: Greatrex, Jones, Lumberg, Read, Bellis, Graham, Longmuir, Rogers, Mays, Woodhouse, Gunson

Goalscorers: Mays (4)

 Chesterfield: Bilcliff, Beeson, Bicknell, Wass, Fell, Neale, Bloxham, Roseboom, Cowan, Taylor, Lee

Goalscorers: Roseboom, Bloxham, Cowan,

Attendance: 5,463

Following yet another anonymous season in mid-table, Wrexham excelled in 1928/29 and finished third in the League table. Chesterfield visited the Racecourse on the opening day of the season and the club were hopeful that the arrival of Albert ‘Billy’ Mays from Merthyr Town would help propel them to greater heights. The centre-forward had previous League experience with Bristol City, Plymouth Argyle and the South Wales club, so hopes were high.

Writing in the Leader, ‘XYZ’ summed up his impression of the new marksman following this first match of the season:

Mays made a favourable impression and scored four goals. This was the best individual performance in League football on Saturday and the great ovation he received from the spectators was fully deserved.

Mays gave Wrexham the lead after 15 minutes, but just 10 minutes later Chesterfield equalised when Jack Lee raced away from Teddy Read and Alf Jones, to deliver a fine centre. Ken Greatrex punched clear, but the ball only found Teddy Roseboom, who got his name on the scoresheet.

Worse was to follow before the interval, as another attack down the left flank by Lee, led to William Cowan scoring a second for the visitors.

Wrexham fought back in the second period and showed plenty of aggression. Archie Longmuir fired in a couple of first-time shots, while Billie Rogers was very unlucky not to score with a ferocious cross-shot. Eventually, Mays restored parity from a Gunson centre, but Chesterfield were not to be outdone. Albert Bloxham was the man to put the visitors back in control, but this sensational game was still far from over. Gunson and Mays combined, before the centre-forward drew the keeper out and completed his hat-trick.

The fat lady hadn’t started to sing yet though and Wrexham carried on attacking. That man Mays headed home the winning goal from a corner in the last minute.

We were off to a winning start. Things would continue in a positive vein, with six more wins and three draws before we fell to our first defeat of the season, against Stockport County at Edgeley Park (6-2).

Bradford City eventually won promotion from the Third Division North that season. They finished a single point ahead of Stockport County, and 11 points clear of third placed Wrexham.

***

Billy Mays ended the season with 32 League goals. This was not the last time that he secured a 4-goal haul, as he repeated this trick on January the 5th 1929, in a 5-0 home thrashing of Barrow.

***

Season 1928/29 was also significant as it saw the first Wrexham goal by a certain Tommy Bamford. He struck in a 4-0 crushing of Accrington Stanley at the Racecourse, on the 30th of March 1929.

***

Unfortunately, our success in the League did not transfer to the Cup competitions. We were knocked out of the FA Cup at the First Round stage, when Carlisle United visited the Racecourse and scraped a 0-1 victory. It was a similar story in the Welsh Cup, as Rhyl secured a 2-4 victory at the Cae Ras at the Fifth Round stage. We had received byes for the previous rounds.

Memory Match – 05-11-27

Throughout the 2017/18 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

This is the third successive season that I have been writing the Memory Match column. Indeed, when I have written a Memory Match for every Football League season that Wrexham AFC enjoyed,  I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

05-11-27

Wrexham v Ashington

League Division Three (Northern Section)

Racecourse Ground

Result: 5-1

Wrexham: Robson, Jones, Crompton, Regan, Bellis, Graham, Longmuir, Rogers, Smith, Woodhouse, Gunson

Goalscorers: Rogers (2), Smith (3)

Ashington: Ridley, Robson, Best, Carlton, Price, Grieves, Hopper, Noble , Graham, Watson, Randall

Goalscorer: Randall

Attendance: 3,531

Wrexham had started the season strongly. After beating Stockport County at the Racecourse in September they topped the table for a week at least. In the run up to this game, they had fallen to fifth position, but were very much still looking upwards at a promotion tilt.

Ashington may be a new name to many of you. They are based in Northumberland and can claim to be the most northerly team to have played in the Football League. At the time of our encounter with them in the Third Division (North) they were struggling at the foot of the table and only managed to survive for another season at this level. In 1928/29 they lost their bid for re-election after finishing rock bottom. They were replaced by York City.

Remarkably, Ashington had yet to win a league game in 1927/28, so Wrexham were firm favourites. Before arriving at the Racecourse they had played 13 matches of which eight had been lost and five drawn. They had only managed to find the net on 14 occasions while conceding 41 goals. Indeed, the visitors were no match for the Welshmen and we could have won by a cricket score if the game had been played in less inclement conditions. A harsh wind and torrential rain led to Wrexham players taking their foot off the gas. We had recorded a four goal margin of victory, but it could have been so many more…

Writing the match report, Wrexham Leader journalist XYZ states that the “game was so one-sided that only a few brief details of the play are necessary”. Our first goal was scored after six minutes when a high centre from Gordon Gunson was converted by Billie Rogers. The Ashington defence were pulled apart by Roland Woodhouse and Gunson with visiting goalkeeper Ralph Ridley pulling off a number of fine saves before the Blues doubled their lead on 23 minutes. Archie Longmuir baffled the opposition with his wing work and when he centred, Cecil Smith took the ball in his stride to net his second goal of the season.

Just before half-time, Smith added a third that was vehemently disputed by the visitors who felt that both Woodhouse and Smith were offside. They managed to persuade the referee to consult his linesman, but this conversation only lasted a couple of seconds and the goal was awarded.

In the second half, Smith completed his hat-trick and this was followed by a degree of slackness edging in to our game. This led to Jimmy Randall taking advantage and getting on the scoresheet. Wrexham replied with a second goal for Rogers. The fact that they didn’t score more was clearly a source of frustration for XYZ who states that the Wrexham forwards could have scored a dozen goals and underlines the fact that “championships have been decided on goal average”. I hope a few Wrexham players of today are reading this…

Ashington benefitted from their football lesson at the Cae Ras as they ended their winless streak in their very next game – a 3-0 triumph against Tranmere Rovers at Portland Park.

Our quest for promotion fizzled out after Christmas and we finished the season in 11th position.

***

Blue-shirted Wrexham might have disappointed in the league but during 1927/28, they recorded their best run in the FA Cup up to that point. A crowd of 12,000 turned up at the Racecourse to see the third round encounter with Second Division Swansea Town. A fine 2-1 win ensured that the town was now gripped with Cup fever and this was heightened when we drew First Division Birmingham at home. A 12,228 crowd saw Wrexham go down fighting 1-3.

Memory Match – 10-04-05

Throughout the 2017/18 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

This is the third successive season that I have been writing the Memory Match column. Indeed, when I have written a Memory Match for every Football League season I would like to compile all the columns into a book that will reflect the rich history of my beloved football club.

10-04-05

Wrexham v Southend United

Football League Trophy Final

Millennium Stadium

Result: 2-0 (after extra time)

Wrexham: Foster, Edwards, Morgan, Ferguson, Lawrence, Roberts (Pejic), Crowell (Bennett), Jones (Williams), Ugarte, Llewellyn, Holt

Goalscorers: Ugarte (99), Ferguson (118)

Southend United: Flahavan, Jupp, Wilson, Pettefer (Guttridge), Prior, Barrett, Maher, Gower (McCormack), Eastwood (Dudfield), Gray, Bentley

Attendance: 36,216

It had been a depressing season, both on and off the pitch. This is not the time, nor place for a lengthy analysis of the turmoil caused by Alex Hamilton, but I must provide some context.

On 3 December 2004 the club was placed in administration by the High Court as we owed £2,600,000, including £800,000 to the Inland Revenue. Wrexham became the first League club to suffer a ten-point deduction for being placed in administration, causing them to drop from mid-table to the League One relegation zone.

Despite their financial turmoil, Wrexham reached the LDV Vans Trophy final against Southend United at the Millennium Stadium after beating Notts County (2-3), Stockport County (2-0), Chester City (0-1), Hereford United (1-2) and Oldham Athletic (6-3 on aggregate) on route to the Cardiff showpiece. It was Southend’s second consecutive appearance in the Football League Trophy final after losing to Blackpool (0-2) in 2004.

There were no surprises in Wrexham’s line up with Mark Jones, Carlos Edwards and Craig Morgan, all recovering from injuries. Midfielder Danny Williams was named as one of the five substitutes having overcome back problems, while Alex Smith, Chris Armstrong, Scott Green and Levi Mackin were the unlucky players not to make the final sixteen.

Wrexham began brightly and would have taken an early lead if Juan Ugarte’s goalscoring instincts not prevented him from passing to the unmarked Chris Llewellyn in the 11th minute.

Unfortunately, Steve Roberts had to hobble off on 14 minutes. He was replaced by Shaun Pejic, but this did not disrupt our flow as Ugarte proved when he curled a shot just wide.

It was not all one-way traffic though as Southend’s Freddy Eastwood threatened fleetingly, and Mark Bentley produced fine saves from Ben Foster both sides of the interval.

Twenty minutes from time Bentley’s header hit his own bar. The ball bounced back into play and Bentley challenged Ugarte for the rebound, with the Wrexham player winning only to see his header hit the post and eventually fall into Darryl Flahavan’s arms. Southend had escaped and forced the game into extra-time.

The contest turned on a disputed corner from the left by Darren Ferguson in the ninth minute of extra-time. The ball was headed goalwards by Dennis Lawrence for Ugarte to flick home from close range for his sixth goal of the competition. We had one hand on the prize…

Two minutes from the end, Flahavan could only palm Llewellyn’s shot into Ferguson’s path and he coolly slotted the ball home from 10 yards to send the best-part of 20,000 travelling Reds into raptures.

This vital victory brought with it up to £500,000 cash which helped keep the clubs future alive while administrators worked to find a new owner.

Supporters Trust representative, Lindsey Jones said: “It was a fantastic day. There were so many people there, and a lot of people we don’t see every week. If they didn’t have the bug before, they will now.

“Long term I hope this will attract more supporters, and in turn make north Wales as a whole support the club.”

***

Wrexham still retained an outside chance of escaping the drop with six league games left. They were only eight points from safety, but it was a case of after the Lord Mayors show as Denis Smith’s men slumped to two defeats – Bristol City (1-0) and Luton Town (1-2) –   following the excitement of Cardiff. Brief excitement and belief began to grow after victories on the road against Port Vale (0-2) and Stockport County (1-4), but relegation was confirmed with a 1-2 home defeat against Brentford on 3 May 2005.

 

Memory Match – 29-03-15

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

29-03-15

North Ferriby United v Wrexham

FA Trophy Final

Wembley

Result: 3-3 (North Ferriby United win 5-4 on pens)

North Ferriby United: Nicklin, Toliss, Wilde, King, Wilson, Hone, Clarke, Fry, Denton, Bolder, St Juste

Goalscorers: King (76 pen), Kendall (86, 101)

Wrexham: Coughlin, Tomassen, Smith, Hudson, Ashton, Harris, Keates, Clarke, Morris, Moult, Jennings Goalscorers: Moult (11, 118), Harris (59)

Attendance: 14,585

 

Do I really have to write this? Surely, it’s best forgotten, but sometimes if we revisit nightmares we can learn lessons to prevent making the same mistakes again.

On their road to Wembley, Wrexham have beaten Southport, Stockport County, Gateshead, FC Halifax Town and Torquay United 5-1 over two legs in the semi-final. Meanwhile, our opponents, North Ferriby United of the Vanarama North, had beaten Mickleover Sports, Boston United, Hyde, Farnborough, Ebbsfleet United and Bath City (on penalties) in the semi-final, after drawing 3-3 with the Romans over two legs.

Surely Wrexham would have no trouble picking up their second FA Trophy title in two years against a team of part-timers from a Yorkshire village?

It all started so well. On the 11th minute, Louis Moult managed to put Kevin Wilkin’s men ahead when he tapped the ball in from inside the six-yard box. Joe Clarke and Connor Jennings had worked the ball well on the left wing with the latter finding Moult in the box to give the Dragons an early lead.

Billy Heath’s North Ferriby side squandered their best chance of the half on 32 minutes and Andy Coughlin was alert to save well from winger Danny Clarke.

Wrexham did make it 2-0 on 59 minutes through Jay Harris. The midfielder had just returned to the pitch after receiving treatment and he raced through from the right side to slot past Adam Nicklin at the near post.

Seemingly in control, Kevin Wilkin then made the biggest mistake of his managerial career when he substituted Dean Keates on 70 minutes. Our experienced captain had been controlling the midfield and organising his troops as usual, so to take him off when he wasn’t even injured seemed bizarre.

The Villagers were handed a lifeline on the 76th minute when Clarke was fouled in the box by Coughlin. Captain Liam King stepped up and smashed the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-1. Things were beginning to unravel.

Seven minutes after replace Russell Fry, substitute Ryan Kendall grabbed the equaliser when he was in the right place at the right time to convert Jason St Juste’s cross and force extra time.

Just after the 100-minute mark, North Ferriby took the lead for the first time when Kendall doubled his tally. St Juste’s deflected cross found the head of Kendall who nodded past a helpless Coughlin. What was going on?

Wrexham piled the pressure in the final 15 minutes and were rewarded for their efforts when Moult smashed in the equaliser with minutes left on the clock.

The shootout went to sudden death and Steve Tomassen was the unlucky player to miss the deciding spot kick to confirm North Ferriby as 2015 FA Trophy winners.

Wrexham manager Kevin Wilkin said: “I’m gutted. We had a great opportunity to put ourselves in the driving seat and to give the game away like we have, I feel we’ve left people down today.

“There were no issues, but then we started dropping off and getting deep again. We didn’t defend crosses, we didn’t get tight to people and gave them time and space. But credit to North Ferriby, they stuck to their work.

“I’m here to do a job. I’ve worked hard at it, had a couple of great cup runs but the league form hasn’t been exactly where we need it to be. There’s been a lot of changes, and we need to keep pushing that on for Wrexham.”

Wilkin was relieved of his duties the following day, but what is particularly depressing is that worse was to follow…

 

Memory Match – 10-08-95

Throughout the 2016/17 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

10-08-95

Wrexham v Petrolul Ploiesti

European Cup Winner’s Cup First Round First Leg

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Marriott, Brace, Hardy, Phillips, Hunter, Jones, Futcher, Owen, Connolly, Watkin, Durkan

Petrolul Ploiesti: Preda, Chirita, Leahu, Balaceanu, Grigore, Rachita, Pirlog, Abaluta, Zafiris, Zmoleanu, Toader

Attendance: 4,308

 

The summer of 1995 was a particularly turbulent one at the Racecourse with plenty of transfer activity. The biggest shock was the departure of 47-goal striker Gary Bennett to Tranmere Rovers for £300,000.  There was no doubt that his predatory instincts would be missed after hitting 109 goals in 160 appearances, but manager Brian Flynn moved quickly to create a new-look outfit by signing Peter Ward from Stockport County for £60,000, former favourite Kevin Russell rejoined from Notts County for £60,000 and winger Craig Skinner was captured in a £50,000 deal from Plymouth Argyle.

After lifting the Welsh Cup at Cardiff Arms Park, this was to be Wrexham’s last-ever campaign in Europe due to the fact that the club plied its trade in the English Football League. The good folk at UEFA had suddenly decided that teams that did not play in the national league of the country of origin would no longer be able to compete for the relevant national cup – in our case the Welsh Cup.

Flynn said: “The atmosphere on European nights is always something special. This is such a shame that the politics of football looks like denying us the chance of savouring it again in the future.”

Wrexham were drawn against the little known Romanian side Petrolul Ploiesti who had qualified by beating Rapid Bucharest 5-3 on penalties in the Romanian Cup final, after a 1-1 draw. This would a tough test for the Reds as they were hampered by more red tape and bureaucracy. UEFA’s ‘four foreign players’ ruling, meant we had to play without Peter Ward, Kevin Russell, Tony Humes, Craig Skinner and Bryan Hughes.

As a matter of note, Mel Pejic made his debut as the club’s physio for this game.

Petrolul may have been technically superior and kept possession of the ball for long periods, but Wrexham matched them in endeavour and flashes of excellent football. In deed, Wrexham could easily have gone ahead after only three minutes when a Karl Connolly corner found young Stephen Futcher unmarked at the far post, but his header went just wide of the mark.

Later Waynne Phillips went close and late in the first half both Connolly and Kieron Durkan put chances just wide.

Andy Marriott was in great form making several crucial saves to keep the stalemate going into the second leg in Romania.  All we needed was an early goal over there…

***

The second leg was played in 90-degree heat at the Ilie Oana Stadium, but the Robins put this out of their minds and fought tooth and nail. However, the Welsh side’s resilience was finally broken on the hour when Zmoleanu swung over a corner kick and Mihai Pirlog powerfully headed home.

Flynn said of his team: “They were a credit to club and country, but above all they did themselves proud. It was always going to be hard against a side like Ploiesti with the restrictions that we had – I thought we were magnificent.”

Petrolul were eliminated in the next round by Rapid Vienna.

***

In 2013/14, Ploiesti were eliminated in the Europa League play-off round by Swansea City – 3-6 on aggregate.

***

In February 2015, Petrolul Ploiesti became insolvent. In the summer of 2016 the club was dissolved, but fans and club legends re-founded and enrolled it in Liga IV – the fourth level of the Romanian football league system.

My Racecourse – Stuart Roberts

Nathan Lee Davies is a key member of the Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association, who is right behind our My Racecourse campaign. Despite a debilitating condition he does all he can to contribute to Wrexham AFC’s success. He has agreed to pen for us a series of short stories over the summer detailing what the Racecourse means to fans and former players alike. This week Nathan talks to WST board member Stuart Roberts about the day his love for Wrexham AFC and the Racecourse was cemented:

28-12-87

Wrexham v Hereford United

League Division Four

Racecourse Ground

Result: 0-0

Wrexham: Morris, Williams, Cunnington, Hinnigan, Cooke, Bowden, Buxton, Hunter, Kearns, Russell, Emson (Preece)

Hereford United: Rose, Jones, Devine, Powell, Pejic, Spooner, Rodgerson, Bowyer, Stevens, Stant, Dalziel

Attendance: 2,443

 Being a child in a forces family, attending the Racecourse regularly wasn’t an option as we were living outside of the area. I got to see a few of the bigger matches, but I grew up as an armchair Liverpool fan as they were the dominant team of the seventies.   At school in the Midlands, I almost succumbed to the pressure from my classmates to join them as Molineux regulars, but after watching Wrexham lose there in the FA Cup Fifth Round in 1981, I found that my hometown team was more important than the men in old gold could ever be.

My first game without a guardian was at Christmas time in 1987. I got a lift with my cousin and his father-in-law, and absolutely loved my first experience of the quirky architecture of the old Mold Road Stand. People were spilling out of the Centre Spot and the Turf full of festive cheer and that is where the excitement started for me.  Then it was around the corner to the Kop….

WOW.

Even though the Kop was still fairly subdued, it gave me such a buzz to push my frame through those cold, iron turnstiles. Those of you reading this now will know that once you have felt the enigmatic mystique of the Racecourse combined with the intoxicating stench of fried onions and tobacco, not to mention the rush of pre-match adrenaline pumping around your body, there really is no going back.  The emotion of the event won me over in less than five minutes. We were only playing Hereford United in front of a couple of thousand beleaguered souls, but there was no where else I’d rather be showing off my new Christmas clobber.

Those feelings were probably enough to make sure I made a return to the Racecourse but it was pretty much guaranteed after making my way to the back of the Kop. I remember walking up the steps on the right hand side with people laughing and joking and obviously enjoying the experience as much as I was.  There were kids who were also starting their education in football and I don’t doubt that they soon learnt what supporting your local team meant and why they are probably taking their kids or grandchildren on a Saturday now, as I do with my daughter who shows as much passion for our great club as any proud dad could ask for.

Once at the back of the Kop I came across THAT guy who starts the songs. Everyone knew him and everyone wanted to stand by him.  He was and still is, relentless.  If a few minutes passed without a song, then you just knew a terrace anthem would soon be booming out. I think his name is Jacko…

“Everywhere we go
People want to know
Who’re the boys in red and white”…

As for the game in question, I had chosen to attend the only 0-0 draw of the whole season – home or away. This was just my luck. The day be0fore this game we had drawn 1-1 at Stockport County and now we struggled to find a way past a Hereford side that sat deep with ten men behind the ball at all times. I don’t remember any real scoring chances and this was a very depressing way to say goodbye to 1987. Dixie McNeil said afterwards that “1988 has to be an improvement on 1987!”

The fact that I wanted to come back for more shows that there is more to being part of a community of football fans than the “entertainment” we often have to endure.

***

Over the summer months, Nathan Lee Davies hopes to compile a series of articles about our treasured Racecourse memories. We hope that this will promote the My Racecourse brand by showing how much this venue means to so many people and illustrate that it can be used by all of the community to create more memories in the future.

Memory Match – 03-10-84

Throughout the 2015/16 football season I will be contributing to the Wrexham AFC matchday programme. I will be penning a feature called Memory Match, a look back at classic Wrexham games from the past that I will share in this blog over the coming months.

03-10-84

Porto v Wrexham

European Cup Winners’ Cup First Round Second Leg

Estadio Das Antas

Result: 4-3

PORTO: Borota, Joao Pinto, Lima Pereira, Eurico, Inacio, Magalhaes , Frasco, Quim, Gomes, Futre, Vermelhinho (Walsh 77)

Goalscorers: Gomes 5, 38 (pen), Magalhaes 18, Futre 61

WREXHAM: Parker, King, Cunnington, Salathiel, Keay, Wright, Williams (Gregory 23), Horne, Steel, Edwards (Muldoon 77), Rogers

Goalscorer: King 40, 43, Horne 89

Attendance: 30,000

Following our famous victory in the first leg at the Racecourse – as featured in the Altrincham programme – we continued to struggle when it came to the bread and butter of League football. Sandwiched between the two legs, a trip to Gresty Road saw Crewe Alexandra batter us 3-0 while Stockport County came out on top of a topsy-turvy battle on our own patch that we lost 3-4.

Indeed our last three League outings had seen our hapless defence concede 12 goals, although crucially Porto had been denied an away goal in north Wales. Surely the Portuguese Cup winners – who featured 14 internationals, seven of whom had been capped for Portugal against Sweden in recent weeks – would save face in front of their own fans?

After 38 minutes – played out in a ferocious storm – Porto had steamed into a 3-0 lead. Fernando Gomes scored twice, one that seemed to feature a handball in the build up and one dubious penalty given away by Parker, while Magalhaes contributed a spectacular second. The Robins were on the rack and few would’ve bet against our opponents from scoring more.

However, Wrexham had a lot riding on the result. While a modest profit was recouped from the first leg tie, this was quickly accounted for when we had to charter a special plane to Portugal costing £14,000. On top of such financial concerns we were also playing for pride, so it shouldn’t have been surprising that we refused to go down without a fight. Scottish full-back Jake King foraged forward to convert a Neil Salathiel cross on 40 minutes and just three minutes later the same player connected with a corner in a crowded area to put us ahead on the away goals rule.

In the second half it was one-way traffic with Stuart Parker being called upon to make a series of fine saves from Vermelhinho, Gomes and Magalhaes. Unfortunately, there was nothing Parker could do to stop a deflected effort from Paulo Futre on 69 minutes. Order had been restored and it seemed like plucky Wrexham were on their way out of Europe.

Parker continued to be defiant in goal as time marched on, but as the home fans began to celebrate their impending passage into the second round, Jim Steel knocked the ball out wide to substitute John Muldoon. With only 60 seconds remaining the midfielder whipped in a cross that young Barry Horne launched himself at and planted a diving header past former Chelsea goalkeeper Petar Borota.

Our tiny pocket of support – some of who had travelled on the same flight as the players at a cost of £195 per person – exploded into ecstasy.

We may have lost 4-3 on the night, but our 1-0 triumph in the first leg assured our passage on the away goals rule.

“This has to be the greatest moment of my career. I’ll tell my grandchildren about this – when I’m a grandad,” enthused captain fantastic Jake King.

Fairytales do happen.